The following is a transcript of an investigative report by Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. Watch the video at the end of the story.
We begin with an epic Constitutional battle in Virginia that’s drawing national attention. Inside of two months, nearly every county in the state has passed new measures supporting Constitutional gun rights. The effort culminated with a massive, peaceful rally at the state capitol this past week where the Governor declared a state of emergency and warned there could be violence. We investigate what triggered a movement that is now being watched by both sides across the U.S.
This was the scene as thousands of gun rights advocates turned out for one of the biggest rallies in memory at Richmond, Virginia’s Capitol.
Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in advance and temporarily banned guns on Capitol grounds. But outside the perimeter thousands peacefully filled the streets, many of them armed.
The protests were triggered by a political sea change in the Old Dominion State. Democrats have just taken over the majority in both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates for the first time in more than 20 years.
Together with Governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, they’ve promised one of the biggest single packages of new gun restrictions anyone can recall. It’s popular among gun control advocates, but opponents say it raises constitutional concerns and worry the government could go so far as to confiscate legally purchased firearms.
To understand the massive backlash here it helps to understand how Virginians pride themselves on their independence dating back to when the state was the largest and most populated of the original colonies. It played a major role in the breakaway from the British and determining guarantees under a new American constitution and Bill of Rights which includes the right to bear arms.
History was in the forefront at a meeting in Stafford County, Virginia called to fight new gun restrictions.
Speaker: Stafford claims greatest American of all, George Washington!
George Washington moved here with his family in 1738 when he was 6 years old.
Speaker: Two thousand citizens on their own have come out here at night to declare the sacrosanct rights which they were born with.
Stafford County is in a wave of Virginia localities that have held overflow crowd emergency meetings to declare themselves Second Amendment sanctuary cities or Constitutional havens.
Speaker: As long as I am on the board with you, we will partner with the sheriff, Sheriff Decatur who’s in audience and that Stafford residents never ever have to worry about our police going to their door to confiscate their weapons as good honest law-abiding citizens.
Speaker: The law-abiding gun owners will not go quietly into the night we will not sit idly by as we watch the Governor subvert government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Mark Dudenhefer, County Board of Supervisors: The gall of those men to even hint or suggest calling out the national guard to enforce some of these crazy ideas that they have. And I’ll say, hey Ralphie, have you looked at what the demographics of our national guard are? They’re not coming to get us. They’re coming to get you!
Speaker: Tally vote, motion passes seven to nothing.
New proposed state laws have included bans on assault weapons, silencers and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.
A limit of one handgun purchase a month.
An expanded definition of “assault” weapons; owning or transporting one would be a felony.
Banning private indoor gun ranges.
And “red flag” laws where guns can be temporarily confiscated from people exhibiting “dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat.”
One draft bill would have outlawed some now-legal guns, redefining them as “assault” weapons, making millions of Virginians felons overnight, according to the National Rifle Association. The Governor has since said current owners could keep their guns, as long as they register them with the government.
Since November 6, 130 Virginia counties, towns, and cities have passed pro-Second Amendment legislation. That includes 91 out of 95 of Virginia’s counties.